- After Dark (TV series)
show_name = After Dark
caption = [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Dark_(TV_series)#Harry_Belafonte.2C_Denis_Worrall_and_South_Africa"South Africa" "11th June 1988"]
runtime = Open-ended
creator = Flagicon|UK
Channel 4and BBC
first_aired = May 1987
last_aired = March 2003
num_episodes = 90
After Dark was a British late night live discussion programme which ran off and on
Channel 4television between 1987 and 1997, and on the BBCin 2003. In 2002 Mark Thompson, then Channel 4 Chief Executive, said in his MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival: "The channel reinvented and opened out talk on television with programmes like "After Dark." [Mark Thompson, MacTaggart Lecture 2002 [http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:s-LZv6GGyXgJ:test.channel4.com/4producers/resources/updates_edin_02.pdf+%22mark+thompson%22+mactaggart+%22after+dark%22&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=uk] ]
Presenters included Prof.
Anthony Clare, Anthony Holden, Stuart Hood, Trevor Hyett, Henry Kelly, Helena Kennedy, Prof. Sir Ian Kennedy, Sheena McDonald, John Underwood and Tony Wilson.
From online history [http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/features/c4/1987.htm "Off The Telly"] : "Live, late-night and - crucially - open-ended, "After Dark" was groundbreaking in terms of content, scheduling, format and presentation. Made by production company
Open Mediaand inspired by an Austrian programme called" [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_2 Club 2] , After Dark "was also typical of 1980s C4 by being alternately absolutely gripping and overwhelmingly boring. The first show was chaired by Tony Wilsonand tackled the issue of freedom of information. The half dozen guests were deliberately picked to provoke argument, and often included a member of the public, but the contrivance ended once they were seated on a small circle of sofas and the cameras started to roll. Over four series Tony Blackburnand Peter Tatchellquarrelled over privacy; Billy Braggand Teresa Gormanargued over how to reduce the number of unemployed; Garth Crooksand Sir Rhodes Boyson disputed the future of football; and Oliver Reedfamously disputed "Do Men Have To Be Violent?" by mauling Kate Millett. [ [http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/features/c4/1987.htm Off The Telly, 2002] ] "
The show itself ended in 1991 but a number of one-off specials and a
tart on Channel 4
Jeremy Isaacs, the founding Chief Executive of Channel 4, wrote an account of the network's early years in his book "Storm Over 4". In it he selects twenty-six programmes ('a very personal...choice'), including "After Dark", which he describes as follows:
::"Open-ended talk. Lifted by an astute producer...from Austria's " [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_2 Club 2] ", it began at midnight and went on till it finished. The aim, discussion between people with burning experience of the subject; e.g. the murderer and the judge. A participant might wait long to utter but in the end his turn came. Viewers could fall asleep in front of it, wake up and find the discussion just hotting up." [Jeremy Isaacs, "Storm Over 4", Weidenfeld & Nicholson, UK, 1989]
::"allowed Isaacs to realise one of his longest-held ambitions. 'When I first started in television at Granada...
Sidney Bernsteinsaid to me that the worst words ever uttered on TV were, I'm sorry, that's all we have time for. Especially since they were always uttered just as someone was about to say something really interesting.' By carrying on until the participants ran out of things to say, "After Dark" became the first programme to banish the need even to think of uttering the dread words. ['The talk-masters of television', "The Independent", June 7, 1989]
The online history [http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/features/c4/1987.htm "Off The Telly"] describes the background: "(In 1987) Nighttime, a mixture of films and discussion-based programmes, extended C4's hours until 3am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 23 April" [ [http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/features/c4/1987.htm Off The Telly, 2002] ] . Channel 4 launched "After Dark" as an open ended format broadcast on Friday nights (later Saturday nights) that would also be cheap to produce as original programming. There was no 'chair' but a 'host' and the discussion took place around a coffee table in a darkened studio. Due to its late-night scheduling the series was dubbed "After Closing Time" by one critic.
The producer described the programme in an interview in 2003: "Reality TV is artificial. "After Dark" is real in the sense that what you see is what you get, which isn't the case with something that's been edited to give the illusion of being real. Other shows wind people up with booze beforehand, then when they're actually on the programme they give them glasses of water. We give our guests nothing until they arrive on set and then they can drink orange juice, or have a bottle of wine. And we let them go to the loo." ['BBC Four to resurrect After Dark', "Guardian Unlimited", January 28, 2003 [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,884010,00.html] ]
The Timeswrote: "After Dark", the closest Britain gets to an unstructured talk show, is already finding that the more serious the chat, the smaller the audience...Channel 4's market research executive Sue Clench...says that around three million saw some of "After Dark" in its first slot" [Virginia Matthews, "The Times", June 8, 1987] .
The audience survey conducted later by Channel 4 reported that "After Dark" was watched by 13% of all adults, rising to what the research company referred to as a "staggering figure" of 28% amongst young men [BMRB Survey, 1988] . One viewer is quoted in the academic study "Talk on Television" as follows:
::After Dark" is far better because it allows people to go over all sorts of stages in a discussion and they are not shut off. Well I suppose they are on for three or four hours, but I think that is a really good idea, that you can really work everything out for yourself." [Sonia M. Livingstone, Peter Lunt, "Talk on Television: Audience Participation and Public Debate", Routledge 1993]
Author James Rusbridger wrote in "
The Listener" magazine: "When I appeared on a Channel 4 "After Dark" programme recently my postman, milkman and more than two dozen strangers stopped me in the street and said how much they'd enjoyed it and quoted verbatim extracts from the discussion" ["The Listener", July 27, 1989] . Catholic priest Father Michael Seedwas quoted as saying: "I went on a programme called" After Dark "on Channel 4 once with a prostitute, a psychiatrist and a gay man. Afterwards they all started coming to see me" ["The Daily Mail", May 23, 2006] .
Journalist Peter Hillmore described appearing on "After Dark" as follows:
::"In the age of the glib, packaged sound-bite, a discussion programme that is long and open-ended, lasting as long as the talk is remotely interesting, occasionally longer, seems a necessity. For all its faults, as when
Oliver Reedappeared tired and emotional as a newt, the programme fulfilled its purpose and filled a gap. I appeared on it once. It was a strange feeling to realise that if you had failed to make your point properly, you had more time a short while later. So Channel 4's decision to axe it seems incomprehensible and wrong...In his book on the channel, its founder Jeremy Isaacsgave a long list of programmes that he felt summed up its ethos. With the ending of "After Dark", not a single programme from the list remains. That is not a coincidence." ["The Observer", August 25, 1991]
Notable guests and programmes
Peter Hain, Clive Ponting, Peter Utley, Colin Wallace and "Secrets"
The first ever "After Dark" programme (1 May 1987) was described in
::After Dark "made a historic breakthrough by rediscovering the structure of adult conversation: the ingredients are intelligence, candour and courage, and the absence of impeding structures such as television time barriers. Seven people talked live, from midnight to the early hours of the morning, on a subject dear to our hearts - and at the moment costly to our nerves - secrets.
Clive Ponting, ex MOD; Anne-Marie Sandler, French psychiatrist; Peter Hain, former anti-apartheid campaigner; Colin Wallace, former army 'information officer' engaged in psychological warfare in Northern Ireland in the Seventies; Mrs Margaret Moore, widow of one of the computer scientists who have died recently in mysterious circumstances; Isaac Evans, a farmer who campaigns against bureaucratic secrecy, and T. E. Utley, "Times" political columnist, who still believes Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 'has a point' - all these discussed frankly their experiences and their perception of the consequences of excessive secrecy." [Peter Lennon, "The Listener", May 7, 1987] Nancy Banks-Smithwrote in The Guardian:
::"A bit of fun, a bit of excitement, and, quite the best idea for a television programme since men sat around the camp fire talking while, in the darkness, watching eyes glowed red....It will be many a midnight before Channel 4 comes up with the subject so on the ball as Secrets and such an enthralling group of guests. Who, you may reasonably ask, is Isaac Evans? He described himself as "a peasant up from the country"...In old age he has, with great simplicity, taken up the cause of small people ruined by secret files...
Peter Hainand Clive Ponting(were) referred to affectionately by the chairman, Anthony Wilson, as "You two gaolbirds"...It was suggested that only half a dozen MI5 men were watching "After Dark". "On double time," said (Colin) Wallace and gave them a wave." [Nancy Banks-Smith, "The Guardian", May 4, 1987]
The programme finished with
the Beatlessinging Do You Want To Know A Secret?['After Kelly', "Lobster", Summer 2008]
In May 1987 - after the second programme of the first series - "After Dark" broadcast the following correction in relation to the British Member of Parliament
Simon Hughes: "Mr Hughes has asked us to say that he is not a homosexual, has never been a homosexual and has no intention of becoming a homosexual in the future" [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article720952.ece?token=null&offset=12] "The Times", January 27, 2006] .
David Mellor, David Yallop and "The Mafia"
Later in May 1987 the
Financial Timesdescribed a discussion about the Mafia:
::After Dark" may well be cheap but is one of the most interesting innovations for years...Two factors give the programme a special character: its length, which allows time for both personal reminiscence and discussion of theory or principle without that "I must stop you there" malarkey; and the camera arrangements with the participants set in a pool of light within a darkened studio, producing a peculiarly powerful sense of intimacy for late night...The combination of Home Office minister
David Mellor, former Cosa Nostra "bagman" Bob Dick, former Scotland Yard intelligence officer Frank Pulley (who made particularly astute political and social comments), New York undercover policeman Douglas le Vien and several journalists who write about organised crime, proved highly productive." After Dark "bears out what has long been said: that ordinary discussion programmes have the time only to establish the participants' credentials before going off the air. This programme establishes credentials, moves on to discussion of the principles, and sometimes even manages some interesting conclusions. The points made in the final 15 minutes last Friday, about the differences between Britain and the US in attitudes towards wealth, and the way in which this might explain the puzzling (albeit pleasing) failure, so far, of organised crime in Britain, were the most interesting of the entire discussion. Do not switch on for a "taste" telling yourself that you will go to bed at 1.00. You will still be there at 3.00." [Christopher Dunkley, "Financial Times", June 3, 1987]
There were "spectacular corruption allegations from author
David Yallop" ["London Daily News", June 1, 1987] , described by The Observeras follows:
::"Perched in the gallery above, a Channel 4 lawyer nervously watches in case the stew bubbles over. His worst moment came at 1.30 yesterday morning when
David Yallop...cut short some coy evasions about who heads PII, the Italian variety of freemasonry, by naming him. The lawyer was quietly told that Mr Yallop had just named a senior minister in the Italian Government. Mr Yallop had not gone so far in his book. He also suggested that a member of the British Cabinetwas on the board of the same company as some members of PII. Since "After Dark", unlike most radio phone-ins, boasts no tape delay, the alleged defamation could not be prevented." ['Hour has dawned for the late late show', "The Observer", May 31, 1987]
Chris Horrie and Peter Chippendale detail what followed: "the story had caused horror among the country's journalists, who waited breathlessly for a shower of writs to descend on the programme makers...But although hacks who missed the show swapped videos and endlessly replayed extracts for snippets of information, nothing happened to the programme makers." [Chippendale and Horrie, "Disaster: The Rise and Fall of the News on Sunday", Sphere Books, 1988] Some years later
David Mellorand writer Gaia Servadio described how their friendship started on the programme ['How We Met', "Independent on Sunday", December 4, 1994] .
Teresa Gorman and "Is Britain Working?"
On 12th June 1987, the night after the British General Election, "the first day of the third term of Thatcherism - a show called" Is Britain Working?" brought together victorious Tory MP
Teresa Gorman; ' Red Wedge' pop singer Billy Bragg; Helen from the Stonehenge Convoy; old colonialist Colonel Hilary Hook...and Adrian, one of the jobless. It was a perfect example of the chemistry you can get. There were unlikely alliances (Bragg and Hook) and Mrs Gorman" ["The Independent", February 19, 1988] "stormed off the set, claiming she had been misled about the nature of the programme" [Maggie Brown, "A Licence To Be Different", BFI, 2007] . The Independentsaid:
::"the wonderful open-ended discussion show mused through the early hours of Saturday...someone took umbrage...It was Mrs Gorman, marching away beyond the table lamps into the outer darkness..."Now we'll have a civilised discussion," said Billy Bragg". ["The Independent", June 15, 1987] "
Jacques Vergès and "Klaus Barbie"
After Dark, "ending its ten-week trial run, has been a remarkable success" wrote
The Independentin July 1987. "The series has brought to television the rare acts of listening, thinking and thorough and subtle discussion...In the small hours of Saturday morning, Maitre Jacques Vergès, defence counsel to the Butcher of Lyons, leaned back on a sofa with a half-glass of something pale and put his case. A journalist and a canon and a Resistance fighter and a concentration camp survivor listened and put theirs" ["The Independent", July 13, 1987] . Vergès said "the reason people were still prosecuted for massacring Jews was because the Jews were white; if they had not been, the crimes would have been swept under the carpet long ago ["The Tablet", July 25, 1987] ". The Guardiandescribed what happened:
:: (After Dark) "had Maitre Vergès on a panel that discussed whether it was ever desirable, or even possible, to forgive (Klaus) Barbie 43 years after his crimes...Vergès attempted to indict French crimes in Africa, imperial crimes everywhere...It was canon Paul Oestreicher who isolated from the trial the real distinction between Barbie and the
Naziregime (and) the imperial brutality Vergès wanted to expose: the unique evil was that the Nazis built a system and a policy for the extermination of whole peoples." ['Crime and the punished', "The Guardian", July 16, 1987]
"Vergès is clearly a man who knows how not to lose an argument even when he cannot win it," wrote the
Sunday Times"but there was a moment when his mind-boggling calm was almost shattered. It came when a young American lawyer "( Eli Rosenbaum) "announced that he had flown in for the programme specifically to confront Vergès with evidence of his anti-Semitic, right-wing connections and general moral corruption. It was a moment of high drama, but it was the outraged American who cracked first. "You're losing your temper," the old maitre instructed him. "That is no way for a good lawyer to make his case." Game and set, if not match, to Vergès." ["The Sunday Times", July 19, 1987]
At the start of the second series
The Independentreported ("Masons pull out of TV debate with policeman") that "Chief Inspector Brian Woollard, the Metropolitan Police officer at the centre of the Freemasonrycontroversy, will go on national television tonight to state his case" ["The Independent", February 19, 1988] . Woollard "completed 33 years in the force, earned seven commendations, and was responsible for tracking down the Angry Brigade" ["The Tablet", February 27, 1988] . The Listenermagazine described the programme:
::After Dark "turned its attention, with some daring, to the issue of Masonic influence in the police force. Daring because a truly unfettered programme - live, under virtually no constraints of length - it chose to deal with matters both potentially libellous and believed by some to be bound by
sub judicelimitations. The central figure was a police officer who alleges he was suspended because his investigations into fraud came up against corrupt Masonic loyalties...There were two ex-Masons, a clergyman who abandoned the brotherhood on religious grounds and a solicitor, Sir David Napley, who had briefly flirted with it in the old days...Former Deputy Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Colin Woods spoke unofficially for the police. A journalist, Martin Short, gave a run-down of the history of the Masonic movement and T Dan Smithtold how in jail he got the Masonic knuckle squeeze from both wardens and prisoners...many an insight into the kind of society we inhabit, its anxieties and preoccupations." ["The Listener", February 25, 1988]
here Hite and "Marriage"
Mark Lawsonwrote in The Independent:
::"where else would James Dearden, screenwriter of
Fatal Attraction, be required to sit while sexpert Shere Hitegave the ending of the film away and demolished his characterisation? In a discussion of what women really wanted, Dearden and Ms Hite were joined by Mary Whitehouse, Naim Attallahand proponents of career motherhood, lesbianism and open marriage...the advantage of the length is the opportunity to see positions crumbling and being constructed. We began with a rough consensus and Mary Whitehouse designated the runt of the discussion. People sighed and shifted their eyes when she spoke. A couple of hours on, we had the unlikely alliance of Dearden and Whitehouse against Hite." ["The Independent", February 29, 1988] The Evening Standarddescribed this as "totally compelling viewing":
::"It is not simply what is said that is important. Equally fascinating are small gestures and expressions, beautifully caught at significant moments by some astute camerawork; the group's physical and verbal interaction with each other; and above all, the ways in which we are able to see how and why an individual might have arrived at his/her set of ideas and beliefs." ["The Evening Standard", February 29, 1988]
William ‘Spider’ Wilson
The Sunday Timessaid the programme on 4 March 1988 "certainly remains lodged in many minds. Spider...was 'discovered' by a programme researcher ferreting out characters at London’s cardboard city. Spider duly came into the Channel 4 studios, cobweb tattooed on his forehead, to talk about drug addiction, being gay and living rough. "(Host)" Helena Kennedyrecalls that homeless Spider, sitting on the plump sofas in the mock studio living room with fellow guests, did not take kindly to being lectured about fecklessness by John Heddle, a ToryMP" ['Baroness goes back to the twilight zone', "The Sunday Times", February 23, 2003 [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/newspapers/sunday_times/scotland/article885791.ece] ] . Kennedy described the confrontation:
::"Spider" Wilson's argument with John Heddle, who at that time was chairman of the Tory backbench housing committee, was a perfect example of what could happen. Heddle's tactic was to lecture the feckless Spider, and tell him to pull up his socks. The argument actually felt quite menacing. Ironically, Heddle later committed suicide, while Spider went into rehab, sobered up and now has both a home and a job." ['The neverending story', "The Guardian", February 17, 2003 [http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv_and_radio/story/0,,896944,00.html] ]
Financial Timeswrote of the programme on 18th March, 1988 [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_After_Dark_editions#Series_2] :
Bernadette McAliskey(formerly Devlin) was allowed to talk throughout as though the British Army were waging war against "her" people. Those who remember the Army going in to protect "her" people in 1968 will find this odd." [Christopher Dunkley, "Financial Times", March 23, 1988]
"A recent discussion on the Irish civil rights struggle in 1968 provided one of the best nights' viewing in ages.
Eamonn McCanndominated the whole discussion, destroying anyone who dared to cross him" ['Fascism on FOUR', "Socialist Worker", June 4, 1988] . The television reviewer of the New Statesmanwrote that "The" After Dark" discussion, " Derry68: Look Back in Anger?", was simply the most enlightening programme on Northern IrelandI have ever seen" [W. Stephen Gilbert, 'Talking Revolution', "New Statesman", May 13, 1988] .
"Israel: 40 Years On"
On 14th May 1988 the
::"Tonight's edition of "After Dark"...will mark the 40th anniversary of
Israel. The programme is likely to cause controversy, as the Shadow Foreign Secretary Gerald Kaufmanand a number of Israelis will appear alongside Faisal Aweidah, the hardine PLOrepresentative in London. For Kaufman, the appearance will not be without a political risk, mainly of a backlash from British Jews who are unlikely to be happy about him appearing alongside Aweidah, a supporter of Yasser Arafat. However for the Israelis involved in the programme there are even greater dangers. They will brave the wrath of the government of their country - where it is illegal for citizens to share a platform with the PLO. One participant...has already backed out after being told she would face arrest when returning home after the broadcast." ['Troubled talks with the PLO', "The Daily Telegraph", May 14, 1988]
Socialist Workerdescribed the 28th May 1988 edition of "my favourite chat show":
Winston Churchill: Hero or Madman?..Unfortunately the character arguing this was none other than the "historian" David Irving...Here sat a man who was pro-Hitler, who was insulting the legendary Churchill. Facing him was a guy...who had been Churchill's private secretary for ten or so years. And there was Lord Hailsham, who as Quintin Hogg had been a Tory MP at the time. But it was not Irving they reserved their contempt and anger for. Occasionally they got a bit annoyed by him, but it was the left representative they despised...dear old respectable Jack Jones, former leader of the transport workers' union." ['Fascism on FOUR', "Socialist Worker", June 4, 1988]
Radio Timeswrote later: "The most explosive argument was between Lord Hailsham and veteran trade unionist Jack Jones. There was...50 years of hate between them" ['All night long', "Radio Times", March 15, 2003] .
Harvey Proctor and "Open To Exposure?"
Milton Shulmanin The Listenermagazine wrote about the edition broadcast on 4th June 1988:
::"I never plan to watch" After Dark" and usually am surprised to see that it is on when I return from some social occasion on Saturday night and switch on the box at one o'clock...My own favourite evening was involved with the subject of ethics and journalism. At first
Harvey Proctorwas the main focus of our concern as he claimed he was hounded out of public life, not because of his sexual predilections but because of his right-wing political views. But his complaints, as well as Christine Keeler's grievance...about her treatment during the Profumo affair, soon faded into insignificance compared to the weird admissions of the journalists about what they got up to to get a story. Nina Myskowadmitted she had jumped into bed with a hunk of masculine beefcake after she had seen him in a male beauty contest she had been judging. Annette Witheridge of the News of the Worldtold how she had sent a rent boy, wired for sound, around to the home of the late Russell Harty." [Milton Shulman, "The Listener", December 8, 1988]
Evening Standarddescribed "riveting television":
::"Harvey Proctor - the Spanking MP of tabloid legend, now resigned from his
Billericayconstituency and running a shirt shop in Richmond - in debate round a studio table with a cross-section of his tormentors...Proctor turned on (reporter Annette Witheridge). He drew from his pocket a story she'd written, headlined "Spank Row MP Urged to Take AIDSTest", linking him allegedly to "a former male lover believed to have the killer disease AIDS". Had she checked this out? Had she attempted to contact the "former male lover"? No...Annette Witheridge's admission that she'd left this story to others to check out, hadn't discovered for four months that it was false, and hadn't apologised because nobody had asked her to, marked a turning point in the debate." ['Falling foul of the Press gang', "Evening Standard", June 10, 1988]
Harry Belafonte, Denis Worrall and "South Africa"
Nelson Mandelaconcert last summer, ("After Dark") ran a discussion programme including Harry Belafonte, Breyten Breytenbach, Denis Worralland Ismail Ayob(Mandela's lawyer)" ["The Times", February 8, 1989] . The Guardiandescribed this as "the most civilised and stimulating of current TV programmes" ["The Guardian", June 11, 1988] (pictured [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
] with [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_After_Dark_editions#Series_2 a list of guests here] ) and later Victoria Brittain described the "extraordinary experience of debating with Worrall":
::"Every letter I received from viewers focussed on how the programme had changed their perception of him...Harry Belafonte said how much he looked forward to meeting him because of his image in the US as 'an enlightened voice'..."After Dark" was probably the first television programme accurately to reflect the real balance of forces on the South African political scene...The significance of the programme...was how it shifted the debate from the white political agenda followed so assiduously by South Africa-based correspondents, and gave due weight to the real opponents of the regime." [Victoria Brittain, 'Foreign Bodies', "The Listener", June 30, 1988]
A year later it became public that there was "a revealing off-camera incident between Harry Belafonte and South Africa's ex-ambassador Denis Worrall. For the first three hours of the programme Worrall played Mr Nice Guy but in the closing 30 minutes the diplomatic layers peeled off. The noble Belafonte shook his head regretfully as Worrall's tone changed and he said he would pray for Worrall. Trying to regain lost ground after the programme, Worrall went up to Belafonte and, according to the production team, said: Well, Mr Belafonte, you're really quite intelligent, aren't you?" ["The Listener", May 18, 1989]
Following the programme broadcast on 18th June 1988
::After Dark", a three hour discussion on subjects which will not always bear the light of day, was about...murder. There was
Patricia Highsmith, the thriller writer, inquisitive as a monkey, Georgina Lawton, Ruth Ellis's daughter... Lord Longford...the Rev James Nelson...(and) David Howden, the father of a girl who was murdered in her bedroom two years ago..."I don't know if you can imagine the scene of my daughter's bedoom. Friends and neighbours had to go and clean that bedroom up. The stains and fingerprints. They had to take the carpet up, sandpaper the floor and get rid of the marks, buy a new carpet and put it down". "What kind of marks?" asked Patricia Highsmith, who will be slaughtered herself some day." [Nancy Banks-Smith, 'A manna of speaking', "The Guardian", June 20, 1988]
The Today newspaper wrote:
::"There have been some very peculiar people on" After Dark"...There was the skinhead who left mid-show to look for fresh supplies of lager. And two weeks ago journalist Peter Hillmore sweated so much I thought I would have to throw him a rubber ring. But for sheer oddness, none has outmatched crime writer-cum-New York bag lady lookalike Patricia Highsmith...asking a series of staggeringly daft and insensitive questions to poor David Howden, whose daughter was strangled by a maniac as she slept." ["Today", June 23, 1988]
Bill Margold and "
Evening Standardreviewed the 25th June 1988 discussion:
::"In the business, they call him Poppa Bear (or is it Bare?)...
Bill Margold, a large American with the vocabulary of a peanut, and one of the guests appearing on this week's" After Dark". The subject was pornography and a well balanced mixture of perversion, puritanism and prurience combined to entertain and enlighten insomniacs." [Jaci Stephen, 'Seeing life through Mr Porn's eyes', "Evening Standard", June 27, 1988] The Guardianadded:
::"Margold's breezy definition of hard core - "up, in, out, off" - belies his ambition to give the public genuine artistic storylines...I was waiting for someone, preferably a woman, to hang one on big, burly Poppa Bear, who is about the most arrogant, bullying, bulldozer loudmouth this sleep-cheating series has so far brought us." ['Poppa Porn', "The Guardian", June 27, 1988]
All editions of "After Dark" ended with music, more or less related to the subject of the week. The Evening Standard noted: "This intelligent (mostly), thought-provoking discussion was brought to an end by the song 'It's illegal, it's immoral, or it makes you fat'" [Jaci Stephen, 'Seeing life through Mr Porn's eyes', "Evening Standard", June 27, 1988] .
In a discussion titled "
British Intelligence" and broadcast on 16th July 1988, the guests included Merlyn Rees, H. Montgomery Hydeand a man called Robert Harbinson, described by Francis Wheenin The Independentnewspaper as follows:
::"Robin Bryans, a...travel writer and sometime music teacher who also goes under the names Robert Harbinson and Christopher Graham. (His opponent) is Kenneth de Courcy...who likes to be known as the Duc de Grantmesnil...Though both are Irish by birth, both have intelligence connections (Bryans was a friend of Blunt), both are ex- jailbirds and both are - how shall we say? - quite eccentric...(Bryans) denounced de Courcy on the Channel 4 programme "After Dark". His allegations are too confused (and too libellous) to be summarised here, but names such as Mountbatten,
Shackleton, Churchill, Blunt seem to pop up often." [Francis Wheen, "The Independent", September 9, 1990]
Bryans himself wrote:
::"Before the cameras, we delighted to talk about Adeline de la Feld's family upsetting
Mussoliniwith their writings. I was then asked by Robin Ramsay of the Lobster magazine about my own early writing which he knew about from his co-editor Stephen Dorril who had interviewed me for his book "Honeytrap", the sad story of my friend Stephen Wardhounded by the Establishment to suicide in 1963. But the Channel Four masterminds wanted to know about my war activities and the following day Montgomery Hyde, a barrister, phoned me to warn me that a High Court writ was on its way." [Robin Bryans, "The Dust Has Never Settled", Honeyford, 1992]
Paul Footdescribed it as "one magnificent edition of" After Dark" in which Robin Ramsay excelled himself" [Paul Foot, "Who Framed Colin Wallace?", Macmillan, 1989] . During the discussion, another guest, retired GCHQemployee Jock Kane, claimed "that the new procedures recommended by the Security Commissionregarding the removal of documents from GCHQ had not been implemented four years later" [Peter Gill, "Policing Politics: Security Intelligence and the Liberal Democratic State", Frank Cass & Co., 1994] .
The following week
The Guardiannewspaper reported:
::"Thirty Labour MPs yesterday called for a judicial inquiry into claims that the Government has used private security companies to carry out undercover operations on its behalf. A motion, drawn up by Mr
Ken Livingstone(Brent E), refers to statements made by Mr Gary Murray - a private investigator, who says he has been employed by the Government - on Channel 4's" After Dark" programme." ["The Guardian", July 22, 1988]
Bianca Jagger and "Nicaragua"
John Underwood wrote of the programme broadcast on 6th August 1988: "I recall hosting an edition of"...After Dark "in which (
Bianca Jagger) intellectually crushed Dr John Silber, a senior adviser to Ronald Reagan, and Roberto Ferrey, an apologist for the Contras. Furthermore, she left Sir Alfred Shermanlost for words, a feat rarely achieved before or since." [John Underwood, 'Bianca For President', "The Independent", May 16, 1992]
Jonathan Miller and "Alternative Medicine"
New Statesmanthe writer Sean French described "the best moment of my week" occurring at the end of the 3rd September 1988 edition:
::After Dark "had been debating the problems of
alternative medicine. After a few hours of acrimonious debate, each of the participants was asked to say a few words on what they hoped for the future of medicine. The last comment of all was made by Dr Jonathan Miller. Since he had been the evening's most vociferous opponent of fringe medicine I expected him to deliver a final diatribe. Instead of this, he said he wanted to speak of something which was more important than any kind of medicine delivered on a one to one basis:
::"The main welfare which was ever conferred on the human community was actually by social administration. They were the improvement of drainage, the rationalisation of diet and a humane society, administered by a just and equitable government which actually sees human welfare as being something which has to be honoured according to principles of distributive justice."
::"Therefore, he concluded, he thought the most pressing need was "the ousting of this appalling government." [Sean French, 'Diary', "New Statesman", September 9, 1988]
The following week
Channel 4dropped plans to invite the Sinn Feinpresident Gerry Adams"to appear on its late night talk show "After Dark", after protests from other contributors. The Independent Broadcasting Authoritysaid then that it would have banned Mr Adams on the grounds that his views were offensive to public feeling. Channel 4 avoided a dispute with the IBA by dropping the programme, saying it had only wanted Mr Adams to appear if a suitable context could be found and that, at such short notice, it had been impossible to achieve that" [ "The Guardian", September 26, 1988] . The Guardianwrote:
::"On Thursday September 8, Channel 4 took a decision which has serious implications for freedom of speech on British television...The arguments used - including what appears to be an unprecedented threat to use the 1981 Broadcasting Act - and the way the decision was taken, were as significant as the decision itself. The invitation to Adams was made public...by Paul Wilkinson, professor of
international relationsat Aberdeen University and chairman of the Research Foundation for the Study of Terrorism. The programme makers asked him for advice and contacts - they did not invite him to appear. Wilkinson publicly attacked the proposal to have Adams on the programme. ToryMPs, including Neil Hamilton, Mrs Thatcher's parliamentary private secretary, and Tony Marlow, joined what was likely to lead to a chorus of protest. C4 was under pressure to react. Initially, it said that Adams would only appear if a 'suitable context' could be found. A second statement, announcing the decision that the programme had been abandoned, said that it was impossible, at such short notice, to achieve that 'satisfactory context'...C4 thereby successfully avoided a dispute with the IBA...(which) announced later that day that, if necessary, it would have used Section 4 of the Broadcasting Act to stop Adams appearing...
::After Dark" in the past has included Roberto Ferrey, a member of the
Contrassevenman directorate, Klaus Barbie's defence counsel, and a man who admitted having molested 200 schoolchildren...The decision to drop the programme was taken as the programme makers - who often do not finalise the show until Friday midday - were trying to get a Tory spokesman from the mainland... Ian Gow, who left the government over its Irish policy, initially said he had no objection in principle to appearing, but then changed his mind." ["The Guardian", September 19, 1988]
::"A spokesman for the IBA said: '...The fact that it is a live programme also means that there is no editorial control over remarks Mr Adams may make.' The issue comes a month after an appeal from the Prime Minister to the British media...to withhold publicity from IRA sympathisers." ["The Daily Telegraph", September 9, 1988]
The row was placed in context by the academic study "The Media and Northern Ireland":
::"There were a few straws in the wind in the autumn of 1988 which, with hindsight, suggested what was on the way. In September Channel Four pulled an "After Dark" programme which was to feature Gerry Adams...Most journalists though saw this as an isolated case of self-censorship brought on by the postBallygawley atmosphere." [Ed Moloney, in "The Media & Northern Ireland", ed. Bill Rolston, Macmillan 1991]
An alternative view is provided by Laura K. Donohue (writing in the "Cardozo Law Review" [Laura K. Donohue, "Terrorist Speech & The Future of Free Expression", vol. 27, 1 [http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/21021/Terrorist_Speech_and_the_Future_of_Free_Expresssion.pdf] ] ), who summarises Professor
Keith Ewingand Conor Geartyas follows:
::"at the urging of the British Government, Channel 4 eliminated one of the "After Dark" programs, in which Gerry Adams was scheduled to appear." [Cited K.D. Ewing & C.A.Gearty, "Freedom Under Thatcher: Civil Liberties in Modern Britain", OUP 1990]
Following a debate in the House of Commons
Liz Forganof Channel 4 challenged this account in a letter to The Times:
::After Dark "considered inviting Gerry Adams on to the programme, not simply for him to express his views but to hold him to account for his apology for vile acts of terrorism against the vigorous challenge of five other participants.
Michael Matescites this as an example of the media failing to put its house in order. He omits to mention that in fact the invitation was never issued and programme was never made or transmitted because I...decided that we could not gather enough other participants on that date of sufficient authority to ensure that the programme did not turn into a free run for Mr Adams and flout the normal standards of due impartiality." [Liz Forgan, 'Air-time ban', "The Times", Letters, October 22, 1988]
The producer later commented in an article in Lobster magazine:
::"Adams had apparently agreed to what was at the time quite a coup: he would sit down with sworn political enemies...Finally the C4 Director of Programmes Liz Forgan and I agreed a deal: if a former British prime minister would come on the programme, Adams could appear. Wilson had Alzheimers; Callaghan never liked us; and
Edward Heath, who later appeared twice on "After Dark", couldn’t make it. So that was the end of it...I was subsequently told our (unmade) programme was the straw which broke Downing Street’s back. I cannot confirm this, but the timing is eloquent: our programme with Adams was to be on 10 September. On 19 October, Douglas Hurd, then Home Secretary, introduced broadcasting restrictions (the ‘broadcasting ban’) on organisations proscribed in Northern Ireland and Britain, including direct statements by members of Sinn Féin. From November 1988 to September 1994, the voices of Irish republicans and unionist paramilitaries were barred by the government from British television and radio." ['After Kelly', "Lobster" 55, Summer 2008]
Tony Benn and "Out Of Bounds"
The first programme of the third series was titled "Out Of Bounds" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_After_Dark_editions#Series_3] : "1988 was the year of the tri-centenary of the Bill of Rights, yet in May 1989, in the shadowy studio of Channel 4's" After Dark" programme, a group of former British and US intelligence agents discussed the merits and evils of new legislation on official secrets. When this legislation completes its processes through Parliament such a gathering is likely to become illegal". [ Andrew Gray & William I. Jenkins, "Public Administration and Government in 1988-89", Parliamentary Affairs, vol.42, no.4, October 1989]
::"Channel 4's "After Dark" triumphantly broke all the rules from the beginning...The first of the new series on Saturday proved that the formula is still working extremely well. The subject was official secrecy, and during the course of the night remarks included: "I was in Egypt at the time, plotting the assassination of
Nasser" and "Wilson and Heath were destroyed in part by the action of intelligence agents" and (spoken with incredulity) "You mean we shouldn't have got rid of Allende?" The hostility between just two of the participants, which often brings most life to the programme, occurred this time between Tony Bennand ex CIAman Miles Copeland, and it was the fundamental difference in political outlook between these two which informed the entire discussion. Anyone who regarded Benn as a dangerous "loony leftie" but watched right through until 2.00 may have been astonished at his thoroughly conservative British attitudes." [Christopher Dunkley, 'Never Mind the Chit-Chat, Where's The Conversation?', "Financial Times", May 15, 1989] Tony Bennwrote in his diary, later published as "The End of an Era":
::"Saturday 13 May - In the evening I went to take part in this live television programme" After Dark "with John Underwood in the chair. It was an open-ended discussion which started at about midnight and went on till the early hours. The other participants were the historian
Lord Dacre, Eddie Chapman, who had been a double agent during the war, Anthony Cavendish, who is a former MI6 and MI5 officer, Miles Copeland(an ex-CIA man), James Rusbridger, who has worked with MI5 at one stage, and Adela Gooch, a defence journalist from the" Daily Telegraph". Every one of them made admissions or came out with most helpful information. I was terribly pleased with it." [ Tony Benn, "The End of an Era: Diaries 1980-90", Hutchinson, 1992] The Listenermagazine described the programme:
Official Secrets Acthas just received the Queen's assent. This may be the last time for some years that any disclosures can be made on such matters..."After Dark" exists for mysterious reasons, probably something to do with a necessary safety-valve in a climate of increasing pressure on the media...Its strength is that it has rescued that endangered species, genuinely spontaneous conversation, and presented it absolutely without frills. It does not have to rely on a presenter or on the glamour of its guests, as other talk shows do. Its force is its unique lack of inhibition in dealing with very controversial issues without exhibitionism...an invaluable programme." ["The Listener", May 25, 1989] Richard Norton-Taylorreported on guests who did not appear because of concerns about contempt of court: "Michael Randle and Pat Pottle, who admitted helping the spy, George Blake, escape from prison in 1966...have been dropped from the...programme...Mr Randle and Mr Pottle were arrested and released on police bail last week after admitting in a book that they had helped Blake escape" [Richard Norton-Taylor, 'Blake escape men dropped by Channel 4', "The Guardian", May 12, 1989] . Michael Randle eventually appeared on "After Dark", fourteen years later, on 22nd March 2003 (see [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_After_Dark_editions#BBC_Four_series] ).
'Blue' and "Drugs"
Two weeks later
::"The sexiest show of the week by far is "After Dark"...Saturday night's talking point was the demon drug crack, a subject which would normally leave this viewer in a state of lacquered composure. Again, however, one's hackles soon rose and one was up there, punching the air, taking sides. Unfortunately the debate was hijacked by a black musician called 'Blue', who shouted everyone down with non-sequiturs. Eventually he got up and left." [Chris Peachment, 'Speech Therapy', "The Times", May 29, 1989]
On 10th June 1989 "in the course of a bad-tempered late-night television discussion programme during the European election campaign in June (former Prime Minister
Edward Heath) contemptuously rejected the possibility posed by the former American Defence Secretary Richard Perlethat the political map of Europe was about to be transformed: "Does anyone seriously believe that these satellite countries are going to become free democracies and does anyone really believe that Moscow is going to see the disintegration of the Soviet empire?" [ John Campbell, "Edward Heath: A biography", Jonathan Cape, 1993]
This was the first time a former Prime Minister appeared on "After Dark". Edward Heath was to be a guest again, on 2nd March 1991, discussing the Gulf with
Lord Weidenfeldand Adnan Khashoggi.
In September 1989 the
Evening Standardsaid "After Dark "provided us with the best talk, entertainment and drama of the weekend, when a group sat down to discuss The Body Beautiful. On one seat sat Mandy Mudd, representing the London Fat Woman's Group...Strategically seated next to her on the sofa was the exquisite Suzanne Younger, Miss United Kingdom...The most impressive guests were Molly Parkin, who asked all the right questions; ex-body builder Zoe Warwick, whose perceptiveness and incisive comments kept opening up new areas of discussion; and Professor Arthur Marwick, who had to bear the brunt of everyone's criticism and abuse...Ms Mudd and disabled actor Nabil Shabanshouted him down" [Jaci Stephen, 'A night of chewing the fat', "Evening Standard", September, 1989] .
Oliver Reed and Kate Millett
In January 1991 - at the height of the
Gulf War- Oliver Reedappeared on an edition discussing militarism, masculine stereotypes and violence to women. Reed drank alcohol during the broadcast, leading him to become drunk, aggressive and incoherent. He referred to another member of the panel, who had a moustache, as 'tache' and used offensive language. After one hour Reed returned from the toilet and, getting more to drink, rolled on top of the noted feminist author Kate Millett, who then complained (though she later asked for a tape of the show to entertain her friends ["The Observer", August 14, 1994] ).
Another guest on the programme, author Neil Lyndon, wrote an article in
The Independentabout the experience ['I warned them it was a bad idea to invite Oliver', "The Independent", January 29, 1991] , subsequently criticised as follows:
::"In contrast to Mr Reed, who at least could be described as
Rabelaisian, Mr Lyndon comes across as a rather nannified person aghast at the great actor's "grotesquerie", at his "explosive" comments...I myself was under the influence of a cheeky little Bordeaux for the large part of the programme and, scandalised as Mr Lyndon will be to hear, I, too, share Ollie's problem: I thought it was all a bit of a "hoot". It's a pity the media as a whole is too hypocritical to appreciate a bit of clowning; in my humble opinion just what the wine-merchant ordered at this time of international crisis." [Letter, 'Weak-kneed at the thought of Oliver', "The Independent", February 1, 1991]
The producer wrote later to the British television trade magazine
::"The team responsible for" After Dark "were naturally pleased that" Broadcast "chose our programme as one of the most significant in Channel 4's history in your anniversary issue. Since you referred to the edition in which the late Oliver Reed took part, this seems a good time to correct some of the myths which have surrounded the programme since it was transmitted on 26 January 1991.
::"Although Reed was not the only disruptive guest in the history of" After Dark", what put this particular show into the headlines was not so much Reed's behaviour as C4's. It took the show off the air for 20 minutes, filling the space with an old documentary about coal mining. When our programme returned, Reed was still on set and still disruptive.
::"That night Reed's behaviour was certainly causing concern. But neither the production team nor host
Helena Kennedyfelt the situation was out of control. Kennedy told us the guests could themselves decide whether and when to ask Reed to leave the set.
::"That night, while the then commissioning editor of" After Dark", Michael Atwell, was watching the show, he was phoned by someone representing himself as the 'duty officer' of the
Independent Broadcasting Authority. This individual said an angry Michael Grade, then Chief Executive of C4, had demanded the programme be stopped. We sought to reassure Atwell, explaining that" After Dark "often received hoax calls and urged him to check further with his C4 superiors. We could not help reflecting that if Grade were truly upset it would have been more sensible for him to call either the studio or C4, rather than the regulator. However Michael Atwell, without further consultation, decided to stop transmission. We let the guests continue their discussions, though live broadcasting was obviously no longer possible.
::"But why did live transmission then resume after 20 minutes? Because further enquries by Atwell revealed that Grade was away on his boat. In fact it was
Liz Forgan, awoken at home, who said the programme should be put back on air. The curious event of the disappearance of a live programme provided Fleet Streetwith some funny stories, not all of them true (but many are still recycled). We at Open Media were asked by C4 to issue a joint statement which would have absolved C4 from responsibility. This we refused to do. Six days later Atwell quietly admitted on C4's" Right To Reply" that "After Dark" was not implicated in the screw-up.
::"Viewers with long memories may recall that Reed was asked to leave by the other guests some while after the show resumed transmission. Atwell kept his job at C4 and axed the show at the end of that run." [Letter in "Broadcast" magazine, November 27, 2002]
In his column in the
Daily Mirror, Victor Lewis-Smithboasted of his hoax call: "The show was taken off air not by C4, but by...little-old-wine-drinking-me, sitting at home, far from the TV studio...Once connected, I shouted: "Michael Grade is furious about this. Take the bloody programme off ... now!" ["Daily Mirror", May 8, 1999]
Channel 4's Deputy Programme Director, John Willis, wrote an internal memo: "Oliver Reed got drunk and a hoaxer caused the programme briefly to be taken off air. I view the latter with a great deal more seriousness than the former...1,000 calls from an audience estimated at just 300,000. Remarkable." [Maggie Brown, "A Licence To Be Different", BFI, 2007]
Andy Croall and "Satanic Ritual Abuse"
Following the discussion on 9th March 1991, "After Rochdale" (see [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_satanic_ritual_abuse_allegations#Rochdale] ), the
Mail On Sundayreported:
::"Croall...was suspended by Nottinghamshire county council at a time when the authority was at the centre of a row over so-called ritual child abuse. Britain's first alleged case of 'satanic' abuse was handled by his staff, and led to a debate on national television. On Channel Four's "After Dark" programme...Mr Croall said that abortion was the 'greatest form of child abuse' and claimed that Christians could help abused children better than social workers. He was suspended from his...post for four months." [Barbara Jones, 'Born-Again Job for Boss in Satan Row', "Mail On Sunday", February 9, 1992]
Daily Telegraphreported what happened next: "More than 100 Christians gathered outside County Hallto demonstrate their support for Mr Andrew Croall...Members of the National and Local Government Officers Association, meanwhile, held a protest backing the suspension. His supporters rallied before a meeting of the county social services committee. Mr Croall's remarks...had outraged members of NALGO, who called for his resignation" ['Child abuse row draws rival demos', "Daily Telegraph", April 25, 1991] . Mr Croall was "reinstated in August (1991), subject to restrictions that denied him direct responsibility for child care" [Barbara Jones, 'Born-Again Job for Boss in Satan Row', "Mail On Sunday", February 9, 1992] . He resigned in 1992 and took a full-time job with a born-again Christian organisation [Barbara Jones, 'Born-Again Job for Boss in Satan Row', "Mail On Sunday", February 9, 1992] .
James Harries and "Teachers"
New Statesmandescribed the programme broadcast on 23rd March 1991:
James Harries, aged 12, sat perched forward on the edge of his seat, dwarfed by the upholstery that threatened to devour both him and his blonde mop of frizzy curls. Annis (Garfield) was too busy pouring wine to notice anything more than where the next bottle was coming from. And when Peter (Davies) was not receiving a refill, he was lighting up another cigarette and attacking anything that smacked of tolerance. This bizarre trio transformed a potentially tedious" After Dark "into the most extraordinary three hours of television all week... Anthony Clarein the chair had an enormously difficult job. "I've chaired many" After Dark" discussions," he said, "and we've had politicians, sexologists...but I've never seen any group of people less willing to listen to each other's point of view". Thank heaven, in all this, for Russell Profitt (deputy director of education in Southwark) and Zoe Readhead (daughter of A.S. Neill, and head teacher at Summerhill). ["New Statesman", March 29, 1991]
The Yorkshire Ripper
Today described the programme broadcast on 6th April 1991:
The Yorkshire Rippermay have turned killer because he was forced to wear short trousers as a child, his father claimed yesterday. Young Peter Sutcliffewas humiliated by being the only boy in his school wearing them, John Sutcliffe said on television. "Looking back, it was terrible we made the poor devil wait all that time," Mr Sutcliffe said..."We were very unjust to him". Mr Sutcliffe...admitted he had never visited his son since his transfer to top security Broadmoor hospital- on the orders of the Ripper's wife Sonia Sutcliffe...He said Sonia was "extremely strange" but added: "There's nothing I would do to come between them if they feel that way"." ["Today", April 8, 1991]
::"Mr Sutcliffe also blamed a teenage motorcycle accident for turning his son into a killer. "Apparently he damaged his head in the pile-up. From that moment on, from being a pretty introverted young man, he was just the opposite and became very, very extrovert. There was an absolute personality change"...Mr Sutcliffe...also claimed his son was not a "monster". "I believe some people are born evil, but my son wasn't one of them. There's nothing now evil about him. I wish you could all meet him. You'd be amazed how sensitive, kind he is"." ["Daily Star", April 8, 1991]
Channel 4 axing
In August 1991 Channel 4 announced the end of the series, an action which became the subject of an
editorialin The Times['Best of a bad job', "The Times", August 28, 1991] , and was described by the Mail On Sundayas "something died when "After Dark" was quietly killed off in the shadows last week":
::"Something deeply symbolic happened last week as the important players in British television were travelling to Edinburgh to discuss the crisis in their industry. A small low-budget programme called "After Dark "was axed by Channel 4...it has the raw, dangerous edge which only truly live television can achieve...Last week "After Dark's" independent producers...were called in by Channel 4 to be told their contract was not to be renewed. No explanation was given at the time. But the true reason has now emerged. Its slot is to be filled by something called TV Heaven, repeats of popular light entertainment hits of the past such as
Please Sir, Upstairs Downstairs, The Prisonerand The Avengers...
::"A list of recent participants gives some idea of what" After Dark "was about:...
Jessica Mitfordand Derek Nimmo's chauffeur on Servants. Archduke Karl Habsburgand Peregrine Worsthorneon Royalty and Hans Eysenckand Xaviera Hollanderon Bodies. At its best "After Dark" revived the forgotten art of intelligent conversation...The truth is that Channel 4 became nervous of "After Dark". The fact that it went out live, one of the very last programmes to do so, added to its dangers. There were some uncomfortable rows - Teresa Gormanstorming off the set, a crack addict losing all self-control, a resident of Cardboard City called Spider howling with rage... Michael Gradefeels he must get the ratings up and the costs down. And the cheapest form of television available is the library shelf." [Iain Walker, 'The dawn of a bland new day', "The Mail on Sunday", August 25, 1991] The Independentnewspaper noted: "Grade's programming is confused: he axed the talk show...allegedly to make way for even more innovative programmes, yet replaced it with a series of Seventies repeats. He praised "After Dark" lavishly in public but, in a letter to Edward Heath, said it 'promised more than it delivered'." [William Leith, 'Crisis on Four', "The Independent", September 15, 1991] The producer wrote later in an article in Lobster magazine:
::"Much to everyone’s surprise, the programme survived the novelty of its form and remained a great event for some years, even to the extent that the head of the network,
Jeremy Isaacs, selected it as one of his all-time favourite programmes when he left C4 and wrote a book. Not everyone was wholly supportive, however. Although launched by Isaacs, most of the ninety "After Dark" programmes were made under the reign of Michael Grade, who we were never sure actually watched the show. And Grade, always more of an aspiring Establishment man than his time at C4 suggested, had concerns. Interviewed some years after he axed "After Dark" for uncertain reasons, Grade said: 'It ("After Dark") was an interesting idea and well worth pursuing. I thought it was very badly produced, editorially.' ['After Kelly', "Lobster" 55, Summer 2008 (quoting 'a recorded interview...held at the headquarters of First Leisure on 25 February 1999')]
An open letter was published, signed by Professor
Sir Ian Kennedy, Buzz Aldrin, Billy Bragg, Beatrix Campbell, Lord Dacre, Gerald Kaufman, Mary Midgley, Richard Perle, Merlyn Rees, Richard Shepherd, Ralph Steadman, Peter Ustinov, Lord Weidenfeldand many others:
::"We have learnt with great concern of Channel 4's decision not to continue with the television discussion programme" After Dark". Some of us have worked on and with this production, others have been its on-screen guests, still others have no professional connection with the programme but as viewers have found" After Dark "uniquely entertaining, instructive and informative. We do not want to see it disappear." [Letter in "The Independent", August 30, 1991]
Angela Lambertwrote later in The Independent:
::"I am truly sorry to hear that the Saturday small hours talk show "After Dark" is to be dropped by Channel 4. It was the most original programme on television, and the only one in which the sound of the human voice - angry, boring, repetitive, excitable, but occasionally passionate, revealing and unforgettable - overcame the patina of artifice with which television habitually polishes and tidies up its speakers. Only on "After Dark "could we have heard the rolling Russian timbre of
Tatyana Tolstaya...or seen Clare Shortsquirm as Tony Howardwondered why, if she was so protective about her private life, she'd talked on radio to Anthony Clare...Only "After Dark" had the leisurely pace that made possible the exchange between the Holocaust survivor Rabbi Hugo Grynand Yasser Arafat's PR voice Karma Nabulsi, whose mutual desire for a world in which their grandchildren could play together was so moving; and allowed [http://www.asha-foundation.org/women/women/wendy_savage.php Wendy Savage] to admit to her own continuing pain at performing abortions. Late as the show was (and being open-ended, it sometimes ran till 3am) it was the most compulsive and dangerous viewing on the air. That'll be why they dropped it." [Angela Lambert, 'A modern twist to an old, old story', "The Independent", September 15, 1991]
From 1993 Channel 4 broadcast a number of "After Dark" one-off specials [http://www.openmedia.co.uk/afterdarkspecials.htm] . In 1995 the
::"Channel 4 ended its remarkable season on
capital punishment, 'Lethal Justice', by reviving" After Dark", the best studio discussion format ever created; why they do not run it 52 weeks a year is a mystery. Being live may mean enduring bores...but you can also come across amazing people - a former American prison governor in this instance - who, most unusually, have enough time to explain their ideas. As so often with" After Dark" I switched on to watch 10 minutes and stayed till the end." [Christopher Dunkley, 'Sizzlers for summer evenings', "Financial Times", August 23, 1995]
In 1997 a Channel 4 executive was said by
The Guardianto be "insistent that 'it's a popular misconception that we killed it off. In fact we never lost it. We haven't done another series, but we did a one-off "After Dark" recently in our abortion season'. Bizarrely, Channel 4 cited "After Dark" as a model of the kind of cerebral programme it wanted when inviting (independent production company) submissions in May...'I can't think of any ideas that would make better late-night programming than "After Dark'" [Bob Strange, quoted in John Dugdale, 'The big question', "The Guardian", November 24, 1997] ," he said, echoing the words of the original commissioning executive of "After Dark", Seamus Cassidy ["Irish News", January 29, 2000] , who in an interview to the Irish Newsin 2005 said," 'I'm probably most proud of "After Dark' " ["Irish News", September 12, 2005] ".
inéad O'Connor and "Ireland: Sex & Celibacy"
In January 1995 "
Sinéad O'Connorwas so interested in a discussion about abuse and the Catholic church that she rang in to ask if she could appear. They sent a taxi to her home" ['All night long', "Radio Times", March 15, 2003] . The Evening Standardwrote that "After Dark "made a brief reappearance last Saturday night when, true to its unpredictable form, Sinéad O'Connor walked on to the set 10 minutes before closedown" ["The Evening Standard", January 25, 1995] . Host Helena Kennedydescribed the event:
::"On that occasion, former taoiseach,
Garrett FitzGerald, was sharing the sofas with a Dominican monk and a representative of the Catholic church. “While we were on the air, Sinéad O’Connor called in,”" says Kennedy. "“Then I got a message in my earpiece to say she had just turned up at the studio. Sinéad came on and argued that abuse in families was coded in by the church because it refused to accept the accounts of women and children,” says Kennedy.
::"But O’Connor’s intervention was not all that pleased her that night. For Kennedy, herself from Irish Catholic stock, the real merit of the programme was the way the abuse scandals led into a wider debate, and a bigger picture of the social changes taking place in Ireland at the time, which were challenging teaching on contraception and divorce, and the traditional deference to the church. “It was more than a discussion of child sex abuse,” she says. “You could see a new Ireland coming into being.” ['Baroness goes back to the twilight zone', "The Sunday Times", February 23, 2003" [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/newspapers/sunday_times/scotland/article885791.ece] ]
Glasgow Heraldwrote of the "After Dark" special broadcast on 17th August 1995:
::"The debate on judicial murder looked to be going nowhere. Positions were settled, opinions fixed. A defence lawyer, a policeman, a psychologist, a convicted murderer and a victim's widow were arrayed before us, each saying exactly what was expected of them. Then a fat, smiling American spoke. This was Don Cabana, a professor of Criminal Justice from Mississippi but once a prison governor and once, indeed, an executioner. Quietly, and with some effort, he described exactly what happens when cyanide is released into the chamber, when the gas touches the skin, when the convulsions and the soiling begins, and how it all affects those whose job it is to carry out the orders of the state...It was a simple, unvarnished account, and the most riveting piece of television this week." ["Glasgow Herald", 19th August 1995]
Other notable programmes
In 2003 some other "After Dark" programmes were highlighted in an article in the
::"One show was plunged into darkness by a power cut. The guests carried on talking during the blackout.
Mary Whitehousewas told by a female pensioner: "What women want is a Mars bar and a bottle of gin."
::"The guest who consumed the most alcohol was philosopher
AJ Ayer. "He had been through the best part of a bottle of Scotch, but he was still brilliant" ['All night long', "Radio Times", March 15, 2003]
In January 2003,
::After Dark", the open-ended discussion programme that gave its guests free rein to ruminate or ramble - depending on how much alcohol they had consumed - is to make a comeback on
BBC Four..."After Dark "is one of the great television talk formats of all time - it was careless of Channel 4 to have let it go", said the BBCFour controller, Roly Keating. The programme allowed its guests to talk entirely freely. They were allowed to drink, if they wanted, and the programme ended only when they ran out of things to say.
::"It produced some memorable television moments: John Sutcliffe, father of the
Yorkshire Ripper, was able to give a considered view of his son's behaviour; General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, a former commander of British forces in Northern Ireland, swapped anecdotes with Bernadette Devlin; and arms dealer Joey Martyn-Martin claimed Mark Thatcherwas a beneficiary of the international weapons trade. However, the show was dropped from its regular Saturday night slot in 1991 by the then Channel 4 chief executive, Michael Grade. His decision prompted a campaign by more than 100 public figures, from an astronaut to a zoologist, to save the programme. It returned the following year for occasional specials until its final demise in 1997.
::"The BBC Four version will remain unchanged in format, and will be made by the original producer...:" "After Dark "is a unique combination of a genuinely live programme, not on a delay of two hours like "Question Time" or five minutes like a radio programme. There is no studio audience, so the participants are under no obligation to exhibit themselves. There is no celebrity host who has to make himself look good. And, most important of all, it is open-ended, which shifts the power from the broadcaster and the producers to the participants." He predicted that the programme could seem even more unusual now, in the age of slick and formatted television." ['Risky After Dark chat show to return', "The Guardian", January 29, 2003 [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,884195,00.html] ]
In March 2003 "After Dark" gave airtime to a self-confessed
paedophile. The Guardiandescribed the show:
Tom O'Carroll...argues that sex with children is not harmful...The 56-year-old is Ireland's most notorious paedophile. He moved to Lemington Spa in 1972 where he established the Paedophile Information Exchange. Since its formation, the organisation has called for the open discussion of paedophilia and the abolition of laws against consensual sexual acts between children and adults. And the "boy lover" - as he calls himself - has addressed international conferences across the globe and written a book justifying the behaviour of those who prey on children. Mr O'Carroll and five other members of the exchange were convicted for "conspiring to corrupt public morals" in the 1980s by publishing a magazine advocating sex with children. He joined the "After Dark" panel for a discussion on paedophilia and child protection. Also on the panel were high profile child protection campaigner Esther Rantzen, lawyer Helena KennedyQC, a former abuse victim, a criminologist, a solicitor and two academics. The BBC defended the decision to give a platform to Mr O'Carroll, saying he was invited on as part of a legitimate discussion about a topical issue." ['BBC braced for paedophile row', "Guardian Unlimited", March 4, 2003 [http://media.guardian.co.uk/bbc/story/0,,907254,00.html] ]
Channel 4 at 25
In October 2007, as part of its 25-year anniversary celebrations, Channel 4 repeated the first ever "After Dark" (see [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Dark_%28TV_series%29#Peter_Hain.2C_Clive_Ponting.2C_Peter_Utley.2C_Colin_Wallace_and_Secrets] ) on their
More4channel [Listing on online guide "Modculture News" [http://www.modculture.info/2007/10/retro-tv-wc-26t.html] ] , billing it as " Anthony Wilsonhosts a discussion concerning secrets - both secrets of the State and the personal secrets we keep from one another" [Source www.channel4.com/listings/M4/index.jsp?offset=-4&position=0&startHour=23 (accessed 31.10.2007)] . Credits for this edition of the programme are listed here: [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1134863/fullcredits]
The main themes of "After Dark" were listed in an internal memo in 1988:
::"1. "Lovelessness": the spaces in our society that for whatever reason are cold, empty, formulaic, unfeeling, systematised and filled only with empty rhetoric or silence.::"2. "Who owns your body?" Do you? Does the State? Your doctor? Your lover? The police? Your parents? This theme covers a variety of apparently unrelated subjects: imprisonment, health care, capital punishment, mental illness, abortion, schooling…::"3. "What happens ‘after dark’?" Sex, crime, astronomy…::"4. "Shining light into the shadows" we find not only
Ralf Dahrendorf’s underclass but also the invisible people. Some invisible people are so because they choose to be (criminals, spies, the hidden rich) but others are invisible because we do not want to see them (the homeless, the dispossessed, the mentally confused, the dying…). Among the invisible there is a new slave class: some of those were uncovered by Gunther Wallraffin his documentary ‘The Lowest of the Low’ (illegal immigrants who are used for clearing up nuclear accidents although the work is known to be fatal). ::"5. "Do you want to know a secret?" Guests tell all, or their bit of it.::"6. "What is beyond the law?" Who is beyond the law?::"7. "Not knowing is an act of choice." During a discussion on the Holocaust, an Austrian woman claimed ‘We did not know’; another participant countered by saying that not all knowing comes from reading newspapers. Looking, listening and drawing deductions are another way of knowing, so choosing not to look or listen or draw a deduction can be conscious ‘not knowing’. So: what things in our society are we choosing to look away from, choosing not to know? What will our grandchildren accuse us of? [Quoted in 'After Kelly', "Lobster" 55, Summer 2008]
"After Dark "is different: experts sit side by side with ordinary people - irrespective of age, race, gender or sexual orientation - whose experience happens to relate to the subject...(The producer says) 'An average show should consist of Punch, Judy, a crocodile, a hangman and a grandmother'." ['The Dark Side', "City Limits", April 30, 1987] 'There's nobody I wouldn't have on the programme' [Jay Rayner, 'Table Talk', "Arena", 1989] .
Mark Lawsonwrote in the The Independent:
Watergateconspirator John Ehrlichmanwas at the dentist when the surgery phone rang. It was for him. A voice from London: how would he like to take part in an open-ended, very-late-night discussion on the nature of truth. If he was interested, he had four hours to get on the plane... Jeremy Isaacs, in his farewell speech to the television industry, counted ("After Dark") among the innovations of which he was most proud...The key to the series...is the casting...(The producer says) "We start with one or two people without whom the discussion wouldn't take place, the catalysts. Then there are the people who are not known TV performers but who will bring personal testimony to issues which would otherwise be argued theoretically. Then there are the historians or journalists who provide a context...In a documentary the meetings between these points of view would happen in a cutting room or, at best, around a table under bright lights with time running out. You don't, in any other programme, get the full nuances of a meeting between people"." [Mark Lawson, 'All we've got time for', "The Independent", February 19, 1988] . The Timeswrote: "Some of the juxtapositions have been inspired" ['Deep talk into the night', "The Times", May 13, 1989] . "After the Nelson Mandelaconcert last summer it ran a discussion programme including Harry Belafonte, Breyten Breytenbach, Denis Worralland Ismail Ayob, Mandela's lawyer. Belafonte came directly from Wembley with a police escort for his only British TV appearance. Programme hired a private plane to fly in Breytenbach. Worrall came from South Africa at "After Dark" expense. But this largesse is apparently unusual" ["The Times", February 8, 1989] .
::After Dark "has managed a genuinely fresh approach. It has done so by freeing itself of such conventions as a studio audience and a set running time, of carrying on through commercial breaks and of dealing with one subject instead of several." ['Deep talk into the night', "The Times", May 13, 1989]
and the TV trade magazine Televisual commented:
::"The show was successful in making its guests forget the cameras and the host.
Edward Teller, inventor of the H-bomb, only agreed to appear on the show because it wasn't edited ['After Dark's leading light', "Televisual", September 1987] . "
The producer described the working method:
::"so designed as to empower the guests, rather than have them act out a preordained and inevitably limited agenda designed by others. In all the ways that matter the control of "After Dark" passed from the producer and the broadcaster to the participants. As a result it was never our show – it always belonged to the guests, which is only right, proper and as it should be but normally never is...The special freedoms guaranteed by the programme were grabbed by the participants, who often said the apparently unsayable. Intelligent production kept us out of the law courts, if not out of hot water." ['After Kelly', "Lobster" 55, Summer 2008] "Presenter John Underwood reckons the first give-away is guests' choice of seats. 'Power figures, people used to being listened to, plump themselves down opposite the host. The seat on the presenters' right, a bit in the shadows, is chosen by dark horses whose contributions are few but deadly.' He also relishes the unexpected alliances that are formed and the genuine dialogue that becomes possible" ['Watching Brief', "The Guardian", May 13, 1989] .
Jay Raynerdescribed the backstage atmosphere in Arena magazine:
::"The situation is a little more controlled than the viewer might imagine...As the guests arrived they were shepherded off to individual dressing rooms. Such solitary confinement was to protect the guests from meeting each other and...talking themselves out before the television fun began...The plush red furniture is positioned on a well-planned formation: two long couches on each side, two big armchairs at either end where, it is hoped, strong personalities might sit, and an outsider's chair on one corner, pushed back into the shadows...the seating plan was designed by an Austrian psychologist for the original programme, though none of the guests are told where to sit...
::"The researchers used their personal knowledge of each guest to help the discussion along. From a phone in the hospitality room they rang the TV gallery and asked the directors to urge Ian Kennedy, that evening's host, to call upon particular members of the party who were well-informed in the area under discussion. Using the radio link secreted in Kennedy's ear the directors passed the message to him. A few seconds later, as though the researchers were lip synching with Kennedy, the question came out of his mouth. It was an act of great skill...the guests had managed to relax in the usually intimidating environment of a TV studio...They had been given a proper environment to talk in and they had done just that." [Jay Rayner, 'Table Talk', "Arena", 1989]
City Limits wrote:
::"As Don Coutts, director of the show, says 'the first half hour sounds like a
Newsnightsituation, but after a while people relax and get properly into the subject...Given that it is a set-up situation and cast quite carefully, after that it's completely open'. ['The Dark Side', "City Limits", April 30, 1987]
Q magazine quoted the producer: "We're actually trying to break down the barriers that divide people...
Jeremy Isaacstold us it was the best proposal for a live show he'd ever seen." ["Q" 7, April 1987] "I really don't know what's going to happen" ['The Dark Side', "City Limits", April 30, 1987] ." The Listenersaid "After Dark "has taken the format towards the realm of psychodrama, peeling away its participants layers of restraint and front" ["The Listener", April 21, 1988] .
The producer wrote:" "the production team was looking for presenters with more than the usual mechanical hack audience appeal...a facilitator rather than a celebrity figure. Not many people with the intelligence, experience, skill and nerve to take this on came to mind" ['Britain's finest live presenter', "MediaGuardian", 14th August, 2007 [http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2007/aug/14/television1] (accessed 26.8.2008)] .
City Limits quoted the senior director: "”Coutts says their role will be minimal. 'They interrupt if everyone is shouting at each other and generally just keep things going...Getting (the hosts) to shut up is the most difficult thing', so used are they to their usual despotic position”" ['The Dark Side', "City Limits", April 30, 1987] . "
Tony Wilson, a familiar face to programme watchers in Granadaland, understands that he will not be the host next week. Indeed he knows he will not be asked again if he attempts to direct the discussion" [Sean Day-Lewis, 'Dark Thoughts', "London Daily News", May 1, 1987] .
The Guardianran the first recruitment advertisement for programme staff:
::"In May Channel 4 launch an extraordinary discussion programme...
Open Mediaare offering a number of short-term contracts on this remarkable series...We need senior researchers with considerable experience of current affairs television, versatility, good humour, a limitless capacity for work and, above all, sympathy with and knowledge of many different viewpoints and people - not all of them sympathetic." ["The Guardian", March 1987]
The producer wrote:
::"Diversity was anyway guaranteed by the colourful production teams who researched the programmes. It was the 1980s so we employed a member of Militant (at least I think he used to get the newspaper) but also a member of a
Roman Catholicsect, a retired rent boyand someone who was later splashed across the front page of The Observeras an SIS agent. We gave a break to a minicab driver who nonetheless carried on sending us abusive faxes for years. There was a troublesome former Private Eyeman whose stories led me to discover that Peter Cookwas a serious and professional proprietor (Cook’s otherwise incessant comedy shtick vanished when he discussed the magazine’s personnel problems). There was no collective bias: the staff were a motley crew who fought hard to promote their individual interests." ['After Kelly', "Lobster" 55, Summer 2008]
A gameshow producer got his break into television by writing to "After Dark": "They eventually put me on a very short contract cutting articles out of the papers. It was the most junior job I'd ever had and I was extremely happy! Over the next two series of "After Dark", I read and cut 10 newspapers a day, 10 magazines a week, plus monthly digests of foreign press - a fantastic introduction to current affairs. I enjoyed the intellectual cut-and-thrust of the office, the thrill of live broadcasting, and the diversity of the subjects we covered." ['Jack Kibble-White interviews Justin Scroggie', "Off the Telly", July 2002, [http://www.offthetelly.co.uk/interviews/justinscroggie.htm] (accessed 20.8.2008)]
A senior member of staff described her working week:
::"On Saturdays when the show goes out, I might be in the studio till 5am. On a weekday, I might have a 10am start, kicking off with a production meeting. This includes everyone who works for Open Media, the production company - plus a couple of experts on topics we are considering for the future. We have a post mortem on the previous Saturday's programme. Then we move onto next week's show. We discuss possible guests and possible hosts. Later on, we break up into smaller units of one producer and two or three researchers. Within my team, I will draw up a shortlist of maybe 15 guests and 20 books to be read. I will allocate tasks, giving myself a slightly smaller workload so that I can keep a supervisory eye on the overall progress of the one or two projects in hand. I spend the rest of the day on the phone, liaising with my colleagues and meeting useful contacts." [Margaret Coen, "Girl About Town", July 18, 1988]
About the look of the show director Don Coutts said "We used big close-ups, pulled focus or used a panning system. The camera work was radical...The idea was to use very low light conditions, and an atmosphere that was supposed to be dark and moody". Coutts is still pleased with the way viewers could turn the television on and within seconds know that what they were watching couldn't be anything other than" After Dark" ["Television Week", November 24, 1988] .
Channel 4lawyer wrote:
::After Dark "producers weighed the chances of the guest behaving naturally against becoming tongue-tied because of a frightening formal legal document and opted for the side of freer speech. A Channel 4 lawyer was always on hand to explain the handling of particularly sensitive areas to guests, informally warning them of dangers ahead. Particular problems encountered included
contempt of courtor possible identification of minors during the debate on the Cleveland child abuse cases. It was especially important to give guidance on contempt of court as guests risked a criminal offence if they committed contempt. The Channel 4 duty lawyer sat up in the gallery to spot problems as they happened. If disaster struck the lawyer would speak to the host at the earliest possible (commercial) break. If the host had not already responded by making it clear that a guest's libellous views were his or hers alone, that is." [Sarah Andrew, 'TV - Live and dangerous', "TV Producer", December 1991]
* "After Dark" featured in Biff cartoons, such as [http://www.biffonline.co.uk/afterdark.html this one] from "
The Guardian" in 1988.
* "After Dark" was parodied on a regular basis by the
BBC1comedy series " Alas Smith and Jones" as "After Closing Time" ["The Evening Standard", April 16, 1993] .
* The comic writer
William Donaldsonran a column in " The Independent" newspaper about attempts made by "After Dark" staff to contact him (they "didn't know me from a hole in the road and merely wanted Janie Jones's number") [William Donaldson, 'I blame Mad Maria and Pratt the Playwright', "The Independent", September 8, 1990]
Oliver Reed's appearance on "After Dark", Viz magazine ran a strip where Roger Melliebehaved in a similar fashion.
* Simon Bell plays the part of an "After Dark" presenter in the 1989 film "
The Tall Guy" [From www.imdb.com [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098436/combined] (accessed 20.8.2008)] .
List of After Dark editions
* [http://www.openmedia.co.uk/afterdark.htm Production company's list of all guests, hosts, programme titles and dates]
* [http://www.openmedia.co.uk/press.htm Selected press comment]
* [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1134863/fullcredits Credits of the first "After Dark" programme] (from
* [http://tvlistings.thetvroomplus.com/listing-489.html TV listings showing the first "After Dark"] (May 1987)
* [http://music.guardian.co.uk/tonywilson/story/0,,2148635,00.html Article from "The Guardian" about Tony Wilson hosting "After Dark"]
* [http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/comment/0,,884016,00.html Article from "The Guardian" on the 1991 axing of "After Dark"]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,884195,00.html Article from "The Guardian" on the 2003 BBC revival]
* [http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv_and_radio/story/0,,896944,00.html Article by Helena Kennedy about hosting "After Dark"] (includes her account of the
Oliver Reedshow and other memorable programmes, " The Guardian", February 17 2003)
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/newspapers/sunday_times/scotland/article885791.ece Interview with Helena Kennedy] launching a new series of "After Dark" ("
The Sunday Times", February 23 2003)
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